Ed Miliband has surprised almost everyone tonight by announcing that he will abolish elections to the shadow cabinet. It’s one of his boldest moves since becoming leader and will give him the freedom to appoint his own top team.
It’s not hard to see why he felt this reform was necessary. Miliband rightly argues that the elections are an unnecessary distraction from holding the government to account and that Labour has been too inward-looking. In addition, as Mehdi recently noted, the performance of the current shadow cabinet has been poor, with too few heavyweights able to come to Miliband’s defence. The abolition of the elections will allow Miliband to promote Labour’s most impressive new MPs (Rachel Reeves, Chuka Umunna, Rushanara Ali), to fire underperforming or disloyal figures, and to bring big beasts such as Alan Johnson, Jack Straw and even David Miliband back on to the front bench. One of the most frequent criticisms of Miliband is that he has been unwilling to challenge his own party. This reform addresses that charge head on. Even Tony Blair never dared abolish shadow cabinet elections.
Miliband will address Labour MPs about the changes on Monday night and has asked Tony Lloyd, chair of the PLP, to hold a secret ballot among them before the summer recess. The proposal will then go through the National Executive Committee before finally being put to a vote at the party conference in September.
Update 10:23am: The elder Miliband approves. He’s just tweeted: “Well done to Ed for grasping nettle of Shadow Cabinet elections.”